Occam’s Razor

August 5, 2007

The Lowdown

Filed under: Uncategorized — lesturla @ 8:57 pm

Just minutes after Roger Federer’s decisive smash that clinched for him the 2007 Wimbledon title, message boards got flooded, blogs were written, sports writers everywhere went abuzz, critics and wannabe critics put out what they had to say on what could possibly be the greatest rivalry in the history of tennis. Amid all that has been written and said, what most people fail to do is see this rivalry beyond the Grass-Clay conundrum.

Surely, when you have the whole world wide web going berserk with excitement and thrill from seeing these two great athletes slug it out in 5 glorious sets it will be foolhardy to limit your thoughts on the Grass-Clay argument. This rivalry transcends surface preference, while Federer prefers grass and Nadal prefers clay, on any given day there is no question that they’d prefer to beat each other regardless of the surface. End of discussion.

But why is this rivalry being tauted as the greatest ever?

Of course, there was the Sampras-Agassi “rivalry” in recent memory. The 2000 Australian Open Semifinals they played still lingers in many people’s heads. The tension was so thick at the Rod Laver arena that at moments you could hear the players breathe during that semifinal. But Agassi’s extended slump midway through his career that saw him playing challengers deprived the world of what could have been a great rivalry. They’ve got the formula going for them, two opposing personalities and styles on opposite sides of the net. What they didn’t have were those consistent highly strung matches. Every now and then we got a glimpse of what the media has billed to be a great rivalry but most of them time we didn’t. In the end Sampras led their head-to-head (and much of the tennis world really) 20-14.

And then of course we had Borg-McEnroe whose classic 1980 and 1981 Wimbledon finals suddenly resurfaced in file sharing sites after Sunday’s Fed-Nad final. No doubt their rivalry was ominous in Wimbledon. But not at the French. There was also Navratilova-Evert, and Graf-Seles but no matter how much drama those posed and no matter how many rip-your-hair, chew-your-nails finals these rivalries gave us, they were undoubtedly from a different generation of tennis.

What we have in Federer and Nadal is possibly the highest level of tennis we’ve ever seen in this lifetime as Nadal himself noted during his post-match press conference. And this high level of tennis is magnified by the fact that they are here to stay for several more years and we can expect them to meet in many a Grand Slam finals. Morever, this passioned rivalry inevitably stems from the fact that you have two contrasting personalities: one is the silent stoic type and the other grunts like a madman. One is right handed. The other lefty. One hits with a single handed backhand. The other with two hands. One is world number one. The other is world number two. One likes grass. The other likes clay. One likes to serve and volley, the other is a hard baseliner. No matter what the differences are, no doubt, both produce the highest quality of tennis in history.

And so for us mere mortals, we wait for the next classic match — US Open is next. I’m already predicting a Federer-Nadal final stretching 5 sets with the winner… well we can never really tell can we?

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